A simple dal

We love Indian food. I’m pretty sure my hubby would eat it every day if he could.

I’ve tried a few recipes in the past and even took a one-night Indian cooking class once. The class was great — I got some good recipes and techniques, but, man, did I smell like curry afterwards!

The thing about recipes for many Indian dishes is that they take a looong time to make and include lots of steps. I don’t mind a good long session in the kitchen, especially when the result is some yummy Indian goodness, but there’s not always time for that.

So, when I came across this dal recipe that could be done in less than 45 minutes I was eager to try it out.

For anyone who isn’t up on their Indian food, dal (which can also be spelled: daal, dahl or dhal), is basically a thick stew made from lentils. It’s delicious served with some rice or naan or, in the case of this recipe, chopped raw spinach.

Anyway, enough talk! On to the cooking!

Simple Dal

Here’s what you’ll need.

Garam masala (Indian spice mix), chili flakes, turmeric, salt, olive oil, dried lentils, tomato, lemon, onion, ginger, garlic, water and cumin seeds (which didn’t seem to make it into the photo).

Grab a medium to large pot and combine the water (or stock) with the lentils, chilies, turmeric and salt.

You might notice that I used hulled red lentils and green lentils.

The recipe actually calls for hulled or unhealed red lentils. There are a bunch of different kinds of lentils, each special in their own way. I tend to use the hulled red and green because, well, that’s what they sell in the bulk section on the grocery store that I shop at. I usually just use the green in my dal however on this day I didn’t quite have enough green so I threw in some red to make up the difference. I don’t use all red because I find the hulled red cook down too much and just turn to mush.

Add in the water.

Then the spices…

… and the salt.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and leave them alone for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Keep an eye on the water level in the pot. Chances are your lentils will absorb a lot of it and depending on how thick you like your dal you may want to add more water later in the cooking process. I like mine a little on the looser side so I typically will add another cup or so of water once the lentils are almost cooked.

A note about cooking with dried lentils (or any dried legume for that matter), the older they are, the longer they will take to cook so use the suggested cooking time as a guide. Depending on the age of your lentils, they could take a bit longer to cook. I’ve had some that take closer to 45 minutes to cook. You do not want to be eating under cooked lentils or beans — that could increase any, um, gastrointestinal “issues” later on, if you know what I mean.

Unlike other dried legumes, lentils don’t need to be soaked, which makes them perfect for a weeknight  last minute meal.

OK. So, while your lentils are happily simmering away, you can get started on the rest of the dish.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and sauté for 15-30 seconds. You want them to be fragrant but not burnt.

Add in your chopped onion, garlic and grated fresh ginger, reduce the heat to medium and sauté until the onion starts to brown.

Add in the tomato and sauté for another seven minutes or so.

You want the tomatoes to be cooked down and the onions to be nice and brown.

Once everything is ready (lentils cooked/onions done) add the onion/tomato mixture to the cooked lentils.

Lastly, add in the lemon juice, garam masala and additional salt (if you want).

And eat!

Here’s the full recipe courtesy Get It Ripe, a vegan cookbook by Jae Steele.

 Simple Dal

1 1/2 cups dry red hulled or unhulled lentils

4 cups water or vegetable stock

2 whole dried chilies or 1/2 tsp. crushed chilies

2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. olive oil, or non-hydrogenated coconut oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger, or an additional clove of garlic

1 cup chopped tomato (optional)

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. garam masala

Combine the lentils, water (or stock), chilies, turmeric and salt in a soup pot on high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes, until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. You may need to add up to an additional cup of water (or stock) to adjust to the desired consistency.

Heat the oil in a small skillet on medium-high. Add the cumin seeds and sauté for about 15 to 30 seconds, until the seeds are fragrant but not burning, then stir in the onions, garlic and ginger. Reduce heat to medium and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onions begin to brown. Add tomato, if using, and sauté for another 7 minutes.

Discard whole chilies, if used, once lentils are tender. Stir in the onion mixture, lemon juice, garam masala and additional salt, if needed.

Makes about 6 servings.


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